So you’re thinking about going to Thailand for Songkran in April, but you’re not quite sure what to expect? Well, let me help.
Songkran is a 3 day festival of water to celebrate the Thai New Year. From the 13th -15th April the streets will be flooded with people partying all day and all night and taking part in what is essentially a three day water fight.
Traditionally, pouring water over yourself and others was seen as a way to cleanse your sins, but over time it’s escalated into a wet and wild event! If you’re going, or thinking about going for Songkran this year, here’s how to survive and make the most of it.
I can’t stress enough just how wet you’ll get. Imagine you’ve just jumped into the ocean fully clothed. That’s how wet!
Wear comfy clothes that dry quickly. I’d recommend shorts and a vest top, but nothing white. Most locals wear brightly coloured floral shirts during the festival (think over the top Hawaiian shirts). Local markets will no doubt have these available if you fancy joining in on the trend.
If you’re going to be taking anything outside with you, like money or your phone, your pocket won’t be a great place to keep them! As I said before, you’re going to get completely soaked. So, unless you like sopping wet money and a water logged phone, a waterproof bag is a must. There’ll be plenty of people selling them on the streets, so make sure to pick one up! You can buy them for around 70-150 baht/£1.30-£3.00 (depending on how great your bargaining skills are).
No, not for swimming, but unless you want to walk around constantly squinting in fear of your next water attack, invest in some goggles. They come in a range of colours, so for you fashion conscious folk out there you can match them to your outfit if you really want. There’s nothing worse than being blasted directly in the eye with a water pistol. I learnt this the hard way! Again, there will be plenty on sale, and will cost you around 100-200 baht.
If you’re staying anywhere on or around Khao San road in Bangkok then you’ll need to be patient. From early afternoon to late at night, the streets are packed! I’m talking down at the front of the crowd at a music festival packed! I took a group of 15 people to a restaurant opposite our hotel, literally opposite. On a normal day, the walk to the restaurant would take about 20 seconds max. During Songkran however, this 20 second stroll turned into a 20 minute mission of trying to squeeze through the crowd.
When someone throws a bucket of ice cold water over your head, or blasts you in the face with their water pistol, don’t take offence! The only reason they’ve targeted you is because you’re supposed to throw water on whoever you come across. So lighten up, and get involved. Think of it as a huge, giant scale water fight.
To get fully involved in the celebrations I highly recommend you pick up a water pistol. The street sellers have everything from little ones to gigantic Super Soakers. A small pistol will cost you around 150 baht, whereas a Super Soaker can be anything up to 800baht. If you don’t want to be stopping to refill every two minutes and you have a little extra cash, get yourself one of the big guns. It’s more fun, and when someone gets you in the face with their pathetic stream of water from their little pistol, there’s no greater feeling than blasting them back with a powerful mass of water and watching them trying to duck out of the way. Maybe that’s just me being competitive!
I don’t mean drinking water; you still have to pay for that. I mean water to refill your water pistol. Locals set up huge containers full of water at the side of the streets so that people can take part in the watery celebrations. I’d say a good 95% of these locals are happy to share their water for free, but the other 5% are out to make a profit and charge you 20 baht to refill your water pistol. Unless you’re in the middle of a full blown water war with someone, then walk a little further and fill up for free.
If there’s one thing I learnt during Songkran, it’s that the Thai people love to party! I bumped into the staff from my hotel one night. They were sitting at the side of the crowds, with an array of rum and whiskey bottles around them. “SARAHHHHH” I heard. I went over to say hi, and they invited me to share their drinks and party with them. How could I refuse? I partied with 3 Thai guys and their families until the early hours of the morning and drank more rum than I care to admit. Best. Night. Ever.
If you want to see the more traditional celebrations of Songkran, make sure you spend a day visiting one of the many temples around Thailand. It’s great to see the traditional, religious celebrations still take place, like mass prayer services being held by monks. It’s also a great place to go if you want to spend an afternoon away from the water pistol battles.
So there’s my top advice for Songkran. I’ve never had so much fun in such a short space of time before. Water fights, street parties and culture. Songkran is definitely not to be missed!